June 24, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

‘Breaking Fast’ review: A gay Muslim seeks love in sweet rom-com

The thorny intersection of homosexuality and Islam is highlighted with charm and wit in “Breaking Fast,” writer-director Mike Mosallam’s lively tale — based on his 2015 short film — of one man’s fraught romantic journey over the course of the holy month of Ramadan.

Mo (Haaz Sleiman) is a kind, devoted doctor and observant Muslim of Lebanese descent living a low-key gay life in West Hollywood. His warm family supports his sexuality, unlike the rigid parents of his boyfriend, Hassan (Patrick Sabongui), who chooses the first night of Ramadan to inform Mo that he’s marrying a woman as a cover. It’s wadaeean (goodbye), Hassan.

Jump to the start of Ramadan a year later when, at the birthday party of his out-and-proud best friend, Sam (an amusing Amin Al Gamal), Mo meets Kal (Michael Cassidy), a handsome, seemingly easygoing white actor, and a spark ignites. But between Ramadan’s rituals (daytime fasting, no impure thoughts or actions) and his lingering wariness from Hassan’s betrayal, Mo keeps his feelings for the sweet-natured Kal in check, even as they share each of the holiday’s nightly meals together.

Can Mo work past his fears, faith-related conflicts and ingrained notions and open his heart to Mr. Right? Can Mr. Right conquer his own hidden demons to be the best partner to Mo? Can they (please) stop singing show tunes?

As in most rom-coms, it’s not if the couple will get together but how. Still, Mosallam’s incisive and heartfelt, if occasionally on-the-nose, approach to matters of love, religion, family and culture sets the film apart.

Add in Sleiman’s endearing performance, some enticing Middle Eastern food porn, a clever dropped-towel scene, and a nice use of L.A. locales — from WeHo’s LGBT Rainbow District (formerly Boystown) to Runyon Canyon to the Vista Theatre (in a sweet, unlikely scenario) — and “Breaking Fast” makes for a satisfying repast.

‘Breaking Fast’

In English and Arabic with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

Playing: Available on VOD